Education and Training: College
Salary: Average—$30,000 to $70,000 per year
Employment Outlook: Varies—see profile
Definition and Nature of the Work
Consumer advocates support the rights of the consumer to obtain safe goods and services at fair prices. They are employed by government agencies, corporations, consumer protection organizations, and community groups to ensure that the needs of purchasers are met.
Some consumer advocates offer direct assistance through hot lines, seminars, or classes. Others run bureaus for consumers who have specific problems, such as failure to receive mail order purchases. Some publish magazines or brochures to help people get the most for their money or avoid common buying pitfalls. Many conduct tests on automobiles, clothes, food, toys, office equipment, and other items to ensure that they are not potentially hazardous. Consumer advocates may lobby for legislation to protect the consumer or protest against increases in utility rates. Some advocates specialize in a particular field, such as nutrition or housing.
Education and Training Requirements
People from a variety of backgrounds become consumer advocates. Law, political science, training in research or public information, and community education are all useful backgrounds. Many consumer advocates have degrees in law, government administration, public policy, or political science.
Getting the Job
Public service jobs for consumer advocates are available at all levels of government, from federal to municipal, and these jobs may be listed in civil service bulletins. Volunteer work for a citizens' group or nonprofit consumer organization may provide the experience and visibility necessary to enter the field.
Advancement Opportunities and Employment Outlook
Consumer advocates may become directors of consumer affairs offices in the government or within large companies. They may also run lobbying organizations. Employment forecasts are mixed. Advocate positions in government are vulnerable in times of spending cutbacks. Consumer programs are among the first to be eliminated in times of financial strain. Nevertheless, business is showing increasing support for the consumer movement, and the interest of the general public is intensifying.
Because consumer advocacy takes many forms, the working conditions are equally varied. Some advocates work a conventional thirty-five-to forty-hour week in offices, while others work weekends. Those who work unusual hours generally include lobbyists and troubleshooters, as well as those whose jobs involve writing or public speaking. The workload may be highly erratic, peaking during seasonal shopping periods, legislative sessions, or other consumer-related events.
Where to Go for More Information
Consumer Federation of America 1620
I St. NW, Ste. 200
Washington, DC 20006
101 Truman Ave.
Yonkers, NY 10703
National Consumers League
1701 K St. NW, Ste. 1200
Washington, DC 20006
Earnings and Benefits
Earnings for consumer advocates vary according to the type of organization for which they work. Many consumer jobs are part-time or volunteer positions. Consumer advocates usually earn between $30,000 and $70,000 per year, whereas senior lobbyists can earn a median of $90,000 per year.